The UAAP: Season 77: Blue Eagles caught by the Bulldogs

Kiefer Ravena was ready to play the Bulldogs.
However, so were the Bulldogs
(Image by: Rolly Mendoza)
Hard to imagine that it was only over a week ago when King Eagle, Kiefer Ravena bombarded the De La Salle Green Archers with five (5) threes in the 4th quarter. Ravena was hot and unstoppable in that game. He couldn't miss. Others like Arvin Tolentino, Von Pessumal, Nicho Elorde and Fonzo Gotladera also helped. That was a team win.

Well, a mere ten days after and things were different for Kiefer and the Blue Eagles during their last game. Ravena couldn't buy a basket versus the NU Bulldogs and his 13 points were not enough to give Ateneo a hot 4-0 start to Season 77. Tenacious defense from NU and Ateneo's abysmal shooting led to the Eagles' demise. The Bulldogs won 64-60 as they dominated the glass and out-rebounded the Blue Eagles by a total of 48-33. The smaller Eagles could not contain Alfred Aroga and Glenn Khobuntin who combined for 27 boards. Even the seldom-used Kris Porter was inserted into the starting lineup to see if he could slow down the daunting front-line of the Bulldogs. That tactic didn't work. Porter only played 8 minutes but finished with 2 points and 3 rebounds.

To make matters worse, Ateneo ended up launching 24 threes but made only 4. Ravena was a woeful 0 of 7 while Tolentino just 3 of 11. The Bulldogs packed the paint and switched to zone defense later in the game which induced the Eagles to settle for long-range jumpers. Ravena was often left alone to create on offense and he was successful in dishing 6 assists. However, his poor shooting (3 of 20) could not carry the Eagles past the Bulldogs.

In the few times that Ateneo managed to penetrate the paint, they failed to convert near the basket and the referees were not going to bail them out with fouls. Nonetheless, the Blue Eagles were within striking range and were just down by 1 point with over 2 minutes to go. The ensuing possessions defined the ball game.

Alfred Aroga of the Bulldogs got fouled and converted 1 of 2 free throws. He missed the second shot but the Bulldogs ended up with the offensive rebound and they converted that to another bucket. NU was up 4 points but Ateneo had the ball. Unfortunately, ADMU could not hit a three and they missed a couple more from the arc and the game was decided when NU grabbed the rebound.

Overall, the Bulldogs only shot 39.0% from the field but the Blue Eagles were worse at 30.6%. NU had good games from Jeth Rosraio, Jeff Diputado, Alfred Arroga and Glenn Khobuntin. Meanwhile, Ateneo had subpar games from Von Pessumal, Chris Newsome and Kiefer Ravena. The lone bright spot came from rookie Arvin Tolentino (17 points, 9 boards) who sometimes played as the best player on the court. Still, Tolentino made rookie mistakes (4 turnovers) and settled for long jumpers.

So, what's next for the Blue Eagles? Their next games will be against hulking, big imports from FEU (Anthony Hargrove), UST (Karim Abdul) and UE (Charles Mammie, Moustapha Arafat). If ADMU is unavailable to contain and limit those guys, they might be looking at a 4-game losing streak.

A possible strategy that they might employ vs FEU is double-teaming the post. Ateneo barely used that ploy vs NU and they got killed by Arroga and Rosario. The Blue Eagles should try that against the bigger and taller teams especially when the imports are dominating the paint. Ateneo should also use zone defenses more instead of man-to-man. They should force the other teams to launch more jumpers while they clog the paint and box out.

Lastly, there's no way that Ateneo will only score 60 points in a game and shoot just 30%, right? One Big Fight!

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